Shalom, Salaam- An Imam and a Rabbi discuss Jewish-Muslim relations

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Muslims Against Antisemitism (MAAS) are delighted to host the above event with Kingston Liberal Synagogue (KLS) On Tuesday 26th November 2019, from 7.30pm

At MAAS we welcome the opportunity to work with such an active, open and thriving community as KLS, who are allies of ours in the fight against all forms of hate, including hate against Jews and Muslims.

The event, coming soon after the end of the 2019 Interfaith Week, will focus on Jewish-Muslim relations, in front of an audience of all faiths and none.

We are very fortunate to have as speakers two leading religious figures from the Jewish and Muslim communities who are experts on the subject: Dr Imam Mamadou Bocoum and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg.

Their expertise is not solely academic, as for a number of years they have been crucial in bringing Jews and Muslims together.

Given their knowledge and passion, they are sure to have an incredibly interesting and wide-ranging discussion on various aspects of relations between Jews and Muslims in the UK today and audience members will have the chance to contribute through questions.

The two speakers are extremely comfortable in each other’s company. In recent years they have talked about the importance of Jewish and Muslim communities standing together as an important way of tackling hate and promoting an inclusive relationship based on tolerance and educating each other on their respective religious traditions.

Their work has not gone unnoticed. In 2017 they jointly receive the No2H8Crime Award for Intercultural Dialogue. You can see a clip of them receiving the award in the video below.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

Rabbi Wittenberg descends from a family of impressive rabbinical traditions going back several generations who lived in Germany and Eastern Europe.

A highly learned man, he has a literature degree from Cambridge University. He studied to become a Rabbi at Leo Baeck College in London and Jerusalem.

He has been the Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism for over 8 years and the Rabbi of New North London Synagogue for over 25 years.

He has written a number of books and has appeared on Thought for the Day on Radio.

He takes a keen interest in interfaith work and in October 2019 hosted MAAS’s inaugural Sukkot evening.

Dr Imam Bocoum

Dr Imam Bocoum was born in Senegal. He has lived in the UK for many years. 

He can speak a number of languages and has a degree in Arabic. This has helped him in his extensive travels throughout the world where there are significant Muslim populations.

He also has a degree in Islamic Studies and therefore was able to become an Imam in 2004.

Due to his passion for interfaith work he also obtained a master’s degree in the study of Abrahamic religions.

He is a Chaplain for Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMP) where he has played a key role in deradicalisation, which he is an expert on.

He is also an Interfaith Adviser to Register Our Marriage (ROM).

How you can get a ticket

Tickets are FREE and are going fast, so if you don’t want to miss out, please book via the Eventbrite link below, where you will also be able to contact the organisers if you have any questions. You will be given the venue for the event nearer the time if you book a ticket.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/shalom-salaam-an-imam-and-a-rabbi-discuss-jewish-muslim-relations-tickets-71779994897

KLS and MAAS reserve the right to cancel any bookings before the event, based on security concerns arising from vetting.

If you have booked a ticket, but can no longer make the event, please inform us, so we can give your ticket to another person.

PLEASE DO BRING A FORM OF PHOTO ID ALONGSIDE YOUR TICKET

It will be fantastic to see many of you on Tuesday 26TH November 2019 from 7.30pm, as your presence will help make what is sure to be a good event, great!

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Salma Yaqoob reflects the grip of antisemitism over the Labour Party

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There have been calls from many in the Jewish community, The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD) and others for the suspension of the Labour Mayoral candidate for Birmingham, Salma Yaqoob. The response is covered in a Jewish Chronicle article here and you can see the response from the Board of Deputies, President Marie van der Zyl below.

Ms van der Zyl called Yaqoob’s claim that Israelis are European colonisers

“A calculated insult to the thousands who fled to Israel having survived the Holocaust and the hundreds of thousands more who arrived in Israel having been persecuted by Arab states.”

She added “no-one who refers to Jews as ‘pigs’ could possibly be considered for high office by any reputable party. Labour must withdraw her from the shortlist for West Midlands Mayor and expel her immediately.”

This was in response to a video that surfaced recently in which it has been claimed Yaqoob peddled conspiracy theories against the State of Israel and has been accused of blatant antisemitism. Yaqoob has also tweeted an article in 2013 describing in lurid antisemitic language about 10 Rothschilds bankers being arrested in Iceland. For many years’ conspiracies around the Rothschilds have been a common antisemitic trope, based on the idea of rich Jews buying political power and rigging international banking in the interests of Jews against everyone else. This has no basis in fact, but that Yaqoob promoted this on her own Twitter account raises serious questions over whether she should be anywhere near elected politics.

The issue of Yaqoob’s record on antisemitism came to the fore, when she spoke at the May 2019 Al Quds Day. This is a rally created by the Iranian regime to celebrate the Iranian revolution and run by the notoriously antisemitic Islamic Human Rights Commission in the UK. In the past this annual rally has resembled an antisemitic hate fest, where Hezbollah Flags until they were recently banned were held aloft and antisemitic comments made. Muslims Against Semitism Co-Ordinator Stephen Hoffman revealed the dubious history of Al Quds Day and its organiser here.

At the rally she questioned the legitimacy of Israel hosting the Eurovision Song Contest saying:

“For years [they] have pretended to be Europeans. The only link is they’re European colonisers.”

This is an example of antisemitism, based on presenting Jews as privileged whites who are part of the elites and use allegations of antisemitism as a tactic to shut debate down. This ignores that many Jews across the world including the UK are Mizrahi Jews, which means they come from the Middle East. There are also many Jews from the Maghreb and many black Jews. The idea that Jews are privileged white Europeans is based on a lie to promote a negative image of Jews.

Yaqoob went on to add another layer to the antisemitic tirade by referring to Israel as a pig. The pig which is not kosher has been used for years as antisemitic imagery.

Labour Against Anti-Semitism (LAAS) in response to Yaqoob stated

“It is beyond belief that she has been shortlisted as a potential candidate for the Mayor of West Midlands, a region with a proud history of tolerance and multiculturalism.”

Yaqoob is no stranger to controversy. She is already a disgraced political figure for her campaign in 2017 as the Respect Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the 2017 General Election. In this election she was pitted against the current Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah.

Such was the vile nature of how Yaqoob campaigned, Shah was left feeling suicidal. and the Chief Opinion Writer for the Observer, Sonia Sodha wrote about Yaqoob’s toxic campaign in this piece.

Shah herself has spoken movingly about how she was made to feel in this Twitter thread.

A tactic Yaqoob used against Shah was to introduce sectarian politics by attempting to divide the vote along religious grounds when she made reference to Shah not wearing the hijab.

Consequently, its unsurprising surprise that Labour MP Ruth Smeeth in relation to Yaqoob joining the Party said:

“I personally think Salma Yaqoob has no place in our movement, not least because of her behaviour towards Naz Shah in 2017.”

Whilst momentum is building to expel Yaqoob from the Labour Party, it is worrying that she was even allowed to join, let alone be selected to be the next Labour Mayor for the West Midlands. Her record was a matter of public knowledge, which those in Labour in charge of choosing who should be on the short list should have been aware of.

It is important to note that Yaqoob isn’t necessarily the problem per se, but rather a symptom of the Labour Party’ lack of leadership on rising antisemitism in the party since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Party leader in 2015. Indeed, it has become such a problem that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is currently sifting through numerous submissions on examples of antisemitism in the Labour Party, as part of its inquiry in to antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Party leader, antisemitism has increased in the UK. Although its not solely due to the rising antisemitism in the Labour Party given the rise in far-right antisemitism, it has been a significant factor.

The Community Security Trust (CST) reported a 10% increase in antisemitic incidents in the first half of this year, totaling 892. That is the highest figure the CST has ever recorded for antisemitic incidents for the first half of the year and a 10% rise on the 810 antisemitic incidents from January to June 2018.

The highest monthly totals in the first half of 2019 were February and March, with 182 and 169 antisemitic incidents respectively. These are the joint-fourth and sixth highest monthly totals ever recorded by CST. They occurred when issues relating to Jews and antisemitism were prominent in news and politics due to the continuing controversy over antisemitism in the Labour Party.

February saw several MPs leave the Labour Party, some of whom cited antisemitism as a prominent reason for their decision.  

There was also a 46% rise in online hate against Jews compared to the first six months of 2018. High levels of online antisemitism happened during periods in which antisemitism was high on the political agenda within the Labour Party. You can see the CST report in full here.

Where Labour was once the natural home for Jews for many, it has now left many feeling homeless. In September 2018 data from polling carried out by Survation for the Jewish Chronicle showed that 85.6% of British Jews believe that there are high or very high levels of antisemitism at all levels in the Labour Party. This has risen from a similar poll for the Jewish Chronicle by Survation in 2017, where the number was 69%.

This trend of Jews feeling that antisemitism is an ongoing serious problem in the Labour Party is supported by the October 2019 poll by Survation for the Jewish Chronicle. The polling results revealed 78% of British Jews surveyed would prefer a no deal Brexit to a Jeremy Corbyn Government.

Commenting on the poll Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North stated:

“I’m afraid this poll reflects what I hear on the doorstep in my own community, but seeing it so starkly presented is devastating – not least for significant numbers of Jews who clearly want to vote Labour but can’t because of Jeremy Corbyn

Given our very public failure to tackle antisemitism within our ranks who can blame them?”

For decades Jews were driven from their homes, massacred, portrayed as puppeteers controlling the banks, the media and global politics. Alongside these forms of antisemitism, we also see Jews being questioned if they’re Europeans, should be allowed to take part in singing competitions and referred to as pigs. We learn nothing from history if we don’t challenge this and beat it.

I firmly believe if you replace Jews with any other race there would be more outcry at what is happening in the Labour Party, but it seems too many believe that antisemitism against Jews is not as important as hate against other minorities.

If the Labour Party are serious about tackling antisemitism, it must look more closely at its leadership, which appears to be a magnet for antisemites. If, as some do, claim the leadership isn’t attracting antisemites, then it is utterly failing at tackling them. Due to this it is losing many Jewish party members and Jewish allies who abhor the grip antisemitism has over the Labour Party.

Either way, this situation is untenable and the Jewish community should not be made to feel like the Labour Party and the UK is no longer their home. Sadly, that sorry state of affairs won’t change whilst people like Salma Yaqoob are not only allowed to be members of the party, but election candidates.

Author

Wasiq is an educational and political analyst. His areas of expertise include government policy, countering hateful extremism and social cohesion.

To find out more, please visit www.wasiq.co.uk 

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PITTSBURGH TREE OF LIFE ANNIVERSARY STATEMENT FROM MUSLIMS AGAINST ANTISEMITISM

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On Saturday 27THNovember 2018, shortly after the Shabbat service started at 9.45am at Pittsburgh Tree Life Synagogue, led by Rabbi Jeffrey Hill, an individual with the sole aim of murdering as many Jews as possible defiled what should be a place of holy sanctuary, peace and joy by shooting dead 11 Jewish people.

What happened in Pittsburgh was not an isolated incident.It pains us deeply to say it, but due to rising antisemitism worldwide what happened at Tree of Life Synagogue will not be the last murder of Jews just for being Jewish.

We see attacks on Jewish gravestones, over social media and in person across the UK and worldwide.

In the face of this, it is important we redouble our efforts to combat antisemitism.

We wish that antisemitism had stopped with the Holocaust, but as the murder of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue showed, there are far too many people with hatred in their heart prepared to hurt and kill Jews.

In Islam and Judaism, every single life is sacred. Therefore, Muslims Against Antisemitism stands in solidarity with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and the wider Jewish community worldwide. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who lost loved ones.

Designed by Voice of Salam ( Protected by Copyright Law)

As we come to the year anniversary, we call on people remember the 11 beautiful people who lost their lives at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

Joyce Finberg

Richard Gottfried

Rose Mallinger

Jerry Rabinowitz

Cecil Rosenthal

David Rosenthal

Bernice Simon

Sylvan Simon

Daniel Stein

Melvin Wax

Irving Younger

May their memories be a blessing.

Additional Information

If you would like to put your name to this statement over the next two weeks which we will be sending to Tree of Life Synagogue, please contact Muslims Against Antisemitism Co-ordinator, Stephen Hoffman at stephen@stephenhoffman.co.uk .

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Standing up to Antisemitism: It’s not always easy, but always necessary

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Please listen to Elizabeth Arif-Fear’s personal story that will provide you with an insight into the horrors of antisemitism. It’s an emotional, raw account, which as fellow human beings we should all be able to relate to in the spirit of humanity.

We have also included the antisemitic abuse Elizabeth received on Twitter and how people seeing this spoke out in support of her.

Here you see the picture Liz shared on social media to support Holocaust Memorial Day. It’s exactly what we at Muslims Against Antisemitism (MAAS) work to see, as this is just one example of so many which show Muslims showing their solidarity with their Jewish brothers and sisters.

Here we have the wording Liz used with this picture for Twitter. It illustrates a commitment to Jews and Muslims working together against bigotry.

Sadly, Islamists – who do not represent the vast majority of Muslims – seized upon this opportunity and tweet representing the best of humanity to give voice to their poisonous antisemitism. One such person epitomising such behaviour was Ashgar Bukhari, who works for the Islamist group MPAC.

Ashgar was not the only person to abuse Elizabeth online through the language of antisemitism – there were in fact many more. However, during a time of outpouring of hate, some people were however also prepared to #BeLouder and show solidarity with Elizabeth.

Whilst it can be challenging to speak out against antisemitism, at MAAS we are committed to supporting people like Elizabeth to ensure that Muslims and Jews stand together to combat antisemitism. This ensures that those seeking to divide Muslims and Jews will not win.

If you’re Muslim and want support in challenging antisemitism, please do get in touch with MAAS’s Co-ordinator Stephen Hoffman via email at: info@muslimsagainstantisemitism.org.

Elizabeth Arif-Fear is the Founder and Director of Voice of Salam, a human rights and interfaith charity seeking to make the world a more peaceful place based on our common humanity. You can find out more about Voice of Salam at voiceofsalam.com.

  

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What antisemitism feels like

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What antisemitism feels like

 “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

IHRA Working definition of antisemitism

Since Jews lived on this earth they’ve been hated, mocked, laughed at, disliked and seen as nefarious controllers of the world just because they were Jewish. Their views, skin colour, origin, gender, economic level, gender, sexuality etc does not matter to these people, all antisemites’ see is a Jew to blame all the world’s problems, to hate, to dump all the fears of the other on.

This is why antisemitism is such as wide-ranging ideology, coming from across the political spectrum and hiding in many guises and continually metamorphosing like the three headed monster, who every time you think you have killed comes back bigger and stronger in a different guise. Jews have been blamed for capitalism and communism, greed and poverty. If something troubles you, antisemitism tells you the Jew is the eternal scapegoat.

The heart-breaking thing for me and so many Jews and non-Jewish allies fighting antisemitism is that the situation seems to be getting worse and worse. I’ve been monitoring, speaking out and attempting to root out antisemitism in the UK since 2012 and I wish I could say the situation has improved by then, but it has significantly worsened.

A report in July 2014 by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research ‘The Exceptional Case? Perceptions and experiences of antisemitism amongst Jews in the United Kingdom’ found that from 2009-2014 70% of UK Jews said antisemitism had grown. Then there were the problems those Jews faced who were observant. The report discovered that 60% of Jews who were traditionally observant sometimes avoided public display of Jewishness such as wearing a kippar.

In 2018 the Community Security Trust – which is monitors antisemitic crime incidents across the UK recorded a record 1,652 antisemitic incidents, a 16% rise on the 1,420 incidents recorded in 2017.

These are all statistics but behind them are personal stories like mine.

I was born in 1990. When I was around 5 to 6 being Jewish was great. I ate cool food at Jewish festival. I also had lots of non-Jewish friends who found it cool I was Jewish.

By the age of 7, being Jewish became a burden, as I was bullied simply for being Jewish. Its this bullying which to this day has robbed me of a lot of self-belief and I believe is a key reason why I am so susceptible to depression. The bullying continued till secondary schools and I did react in ways that did not help. I didn’t want to be Jewish, all it caused me was problems.

There were still some fantastic times, when I felt blessed being Jewish. I still remember the wide grin encompassing my whole face on my Bahmitzvah aged 13 (A ceremony when a Jewish man come of age). Reading from the Torah, I felt the presence of God and the loving embrace of my family and friends who had come to experience the joy of my Bahmitsvah.

Age 14 to 16 was tough. Alongside, all the teenage hormones which can make life nightmarish, I spent lots of time desperately trying to fit in with ‘the cool kids’ by hiding my Jewishness and if pressed making a joke of it. I went along with the antisemitic taunts masquerading as banter, which were like a dagger to my heart, but which I greeted outwardly with a nervous smile and a hollow laugh. Most of the jokes were around Jews being money grabbers, selfish and greedy. There was the ubiquitous dropping of coins and jokes about Jews getting sweaty in banks with all the money around. Sometimes it got sinister, the idea that Jews were in charge of the world – and given that why was I not rich. I tried to convince myself it was all banter.

At 16 I moved to a new school and resolved to never hide my Jewishness again. Its an important part of my identity and I will always be proud of being Jewish. Throughout university even when I saw antisemitism at Leeds University where I studied, I never again hid my identity.

At the age of 22 when I entered the world of work, I saw how antisemites would pretend they were anti-Zionist, but in their anti-Zionism frequently expressed antisemitic tropes. Terms like ZioShill, ZioNazi and Rothschild Zionist were the latest word accessory for antisemites.

The last two years have been a living hell for me when it comes to antisemitism. Every week I monitor pro-Corbyn Facebook Groups and Far-Right Facebook groups. The sewer of antisemitism which I monitor and record, is like an open sewer in these groups. Jews are all called disloyal, Zios, smear merchants, liars, part of a global Rothschild or Soros, whingers, string pullers, warmongers and much more. Indeed, what I’ve recorded goes to 100s of pages. It makes me feel as a British Jew that I am under attack and unwelcome in the country and I am not alone as one of over 300,000 Jews living in Great Britain feeling like this.

I hope I have given you a small insight in to the human impacts of antisemitism and why as fellow humans, we need the Muslim community to be #ActiveAllies in combatting antisemitism, as you should expect of the Jewish community when it comes to Islamophobia.

About Stephen Hoffman

Stephen is a young British Jew with a passion for writing and speaking out against intolerance.

From a young age, Stephen has been interested in the world and people around him. It is this which leads him to want to work to bring people together to challenge prejudice.

As a student at Leeds University, Stephen was active in the Jewish society and since graduation, he has held a number of roles including working in UK Parliament for an MP and for a variety of campaigning groups, which has involved him monitoring and campaigning against antisemitism and other forms of hate.

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We will not succumb to Hate

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We will not succumb to hate

In the last 8 months the world has seen a wave of violent attacks on faiths. They have been attacks at the heart of our communities intending to divide us, inspire more hate and more attacks of the same. In October of last year eleven people were killed in the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States.[1] The terrorist opened fire on a congregation attending Shabbat morning services at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

In March of this year there were two consecutive terrorist attacks at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand killing 50 and injuring 50 others.[2] The terrorist opened fire on worshippers during Friday prayers.

This Easter 321 people were killed and 500 injured in an attack on three Christian churches and four hotels.[3] It is unclear exactly who the attackers were and what there motives were but again it was a clear attack on faith and community.

These three attacks have been centred on attacking the heart and soul of communities. They have been inspired by ideologies of hate and nihilistic supremacism.  The strongest response we can have is to show our love and support for one another.

In response to the Pittsburgh and Christchurch we saw huge demonstrations of solidarity between faiths. Tarek El-Messidi, a Chicago-based activist created an online campaign with the backing of two muslim groups, ‘Celebrate Mercy’ and ‘MPower Change,’ raising over 240,000 dollars for victims of the Pittsburgh attack.[4]  Then in light of the Christchurch attack on Muslims, Jews opened a fund and raised money for the victims.[5] Responses to Christchurch by the community were incredibly powerful and moving; groups all over New Zealand performed the traditional Haka dance in solidarity and mourning for the victims;[6] a minute of silence was held in Christchurch for the victims following the Muslim call to prayer[7] and Jacinda Arden, New Zealand’s leader, responded to the atrocity with this powerful statement:

 ‘Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home.

They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.[8]

We are now sickened by yet another attack but our resolve will not be broken. We will continue to stand for one another and in solidarity. Our communities will not be divided and we will not succumb to hate.


[1] Selk, Avi; Craig, Tim; Boburg, Shawn; Ba Tran, Andrew (October 28, 2018). “‘They showed his photo, and my stomach just dropped’: Neighbors recall synagogue massacre suspect as a loner”The Washington Post.

[2] “Police with the latest information on the mosque shootings”Radio New Zealand.

https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/384896/police-with-the-latest-information-on-the-mosque-shootings

[3] https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/04/21/whats-behind-the-terrorist-attacks-in-sri-lanka/

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/us/muslims-raise-money-pittsburgh-synagogue.html

[5] https://www.thejc.com/news/us-news/pittsburgh-jewish-community-raising-money-for-new-zealand-s-muslims-after-mosque-gun-attack-1.481610

[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-47648393

[7] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/christchurch-holds-public-call-prayer-site-mosque-attack-190322000548154.html

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/world/jacinda-ardern

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Stronger Together. The world proves terrorist Brenton Tarrant wrong.

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50 killed including as young as three; a globe in mourning. A white supremacist with a camera strapped to himself hoping to gain fame as a hero and possible martyr for his successful mission in ensuring racial dominance has slaughtered 50 including a boy as young as three. In his sickening, lethal manifesto he purports immigration to be destroying communities and he claims to be acting for many that share in his beliefs, but New Zealand and the world are inspirationally proving otherwise.

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister has responded to the atrocity with:

Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home.

They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.’

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg has made this statement:

‘The oneness of God and the fellowship of our common humanity unite us. We must stand as surety for each other in times of threat and danger. We must act collectively against all forms of hatred and bigotry. We must foster friendship and understanding between us and all people. We must work together for the safety and good of all life everywhere.’

At MAAS we are utterly heartbroken as we watch footage of parents who have lost children as young as three and watch the community grief stricken laying flowers at the mosques but whilst devastated we are also inspired by the international outpouring of love for the Muslim community of Christchurch. We are not white, black, Christian, Jewish, Muslim alone we are human and we stand together in humanity. New Zealand comes together and shows us exactly what it means to stand together in solidarity for one another.

Photo of leader

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University of Essex Suspends Worker Over Antisemitism Allegations

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A worker has been suspended amid an anti-Semitism row at the University of Essex.

The member of staff has been suspended while allegations are independently investigated.

The university said a Jewish society will be created on campus regardless of a vote in which more than 200 students opposed it.

Concerns have been raised by the Union of Jewish Students over posts from the Facebook account of lecturer Dr Maaruf Ali, including one that read “the Zionists next want to create a society here at our university”.

University of Essex vice-chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said: “To see the University of Essex associated with anti-Semitism has been a deeply shocking event and one which has filled me with great sadness.

“Anti-Semitism is antithetical to the values of the University of Essex and has no place at our university.

“We have a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and hate crime which is at the very core of our values and beliefs.

“We are proud to subscribe to the working definition of anti-Semitism produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

“Recent events have shown me we still have work to do and I am announcing a series of immediate actions to tackle all forms of anti-Semitism within our community.”

The university said it will ensure a Jewish society is created irrespective of any ratification by the students’ union.

It has launched a review to ensure Jewish students and staff are provided with unequivocal support and will hold a public event on February 28 in support of its Jewish community.

The Union of Jewish Students said it was “deeply disappointed by the significant proportion of students” who voted against the establishment of a Jewish society and “dismayed” to see comments from the Facebook account of Dr Maaruf Ali.

It said it welcomes Prof Forster’s condemnation of anti-Semitism and commends the “swift, strong and supportive action taken”.

“There is certainly still a long way to go until antisemitism is eradicated from university campuses, but we are heartened that these steps will make a significant impact on improving the lives of Jewish students at the University of Essex,” the group said.

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Not funny. Why we must challenge ‘casual anti-Semitism’

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A friend of mine went on a date recently where she was asked, out of apparent curiosity, where Jews typically live in London. In listing areas she mentioned Golders Green. She was met with the comment:

‘Oh that’s why it is called Golder’s Green’

When the date was pushed on what he meant by this he replied:

‘Well you know Jews and all their money’

Appalled and shocked my friend changed the topic of conversation.

Over the next few days she decided to ask friends what they thought of this comment. I happened to be one of these friends, as we stood over the world’s largest stone scarab in the ancient Egypt exhibition of the British Museum, we came to a deeply troubling conclusion.

It is a fact that Jews constitute 100 of the 400 richest Americans, which is strikingly high when you consider Jews only make up 2% of the world population.[1] However this absolutely does not suggest an ‘evil’ and a conspiratorial level of control. In fact Tzedakah, the giving of charity, is a hard wired Jewish value and in this vein there are more charitable organisations per Jew than almost any other group.[2] Also it is of course not a blanket rule that Jews are wealthy, there are many Jews in poverty: in New York 30% of people living in Jewish households are poor or near poor[3] and the Jewish Chronicle recently dedicated a whole article to the question of shame around being poor and Jewish.[4]  But more to the point, a good attitude towards work and knowledge of business is no negative, it is the jealousy of the relative success of the Jewish people and emphasis put on it by society that has created a negative stereotype leading to the greatest horrors of history. There are other communities that put similar weight on education, take the Chinese as an example, identified as disproportionately ‘high flyers’ in the UK,[5] however their relative success has not had them labelled as evil manipulators controlling the world.

Since Roman times, Jewish people have frequently been depicted as wealthy, menacing and controlling. In these respects, Jews have been associated with Mammon, the deity associated with money, and Moloch, the Ammonite god associated with human sacrifice.[6] It was this deeply held conspiratorial belief that lead to Jews being the scapegoat of Germany’s economic catastrophe pre WWII. It was this belief that then had them depicted as evil, selfish wealth grabbers that had their properties and businesses snatched on the night of krystalnacht where over 91 Jews were killed and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged. Finally it was this belief that saw between 5 and 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

With this in mind you would think no young person would enter into banter connected to the same attitude that fuelled the largest orchestrated killing of a people in known history. It begs the questions what do young people know about the Holocaust and how deeply held are these anti-Semitic attitudes?

Let us first give the young man the benefit of the doubt. He did attend a top ten university and may have been trying to impress his Jewish date with his quick wit. Let us assume that he is aware of the Holocaust and the anti-Semitism that drove it. You may think this is an obvious assumption to make but it really isn’t. As a recent survey has shown one third of Europeans ‘know little or nothing about the Holocaust.’[7] Moving into the pre-history exhibition we decided it was likely that he isn’t within the one third that knows little to nothing of the Holocaust, however he maybe one of the quarter that believes Jews to have too much influence in business and finance,[8] thus a part of and adding to a new wave of anti-Semitism that is striking a deep fear into our Jewish communities. In fact this new rise in anti-Semitism has caused such fear that one third of Jews are considering leaving Europe.[9]

We then tried to further extend our empathy to this young man. Was it not just a joke? And when does a joke become a problem? We quickly concluded, as we moved past a recreation of a pre-historic Levantine burial site, that jokes naturally rely on stereotyping and that jokes often are dangerous and controversial in nature. However a joke that relies on the stereotyping of an at-risk minority, that has faced genocide as a result of said stereotyping and when said stereotyping strikes such fear into our Jewish community then it is no longer funny.

We concluded that there are some jokes that base themselves in such painful parts of human history, which use stereotypes that still pose a threat to the target of the joke, that they become dangerous. As a society we need to pay careful heed to the roots of stereotypes, the history of their effect and the current risk they pose. If a minority is still at risk and you are entering into what you consider to be ‘harmless banter’ then you are a part of the problem.

As we head towards Holocaust Memorial Day where we reflect on the evil that can result from engaging in prejudice we should reflect on how we can day to day better protect humanity from future atrocity. Understanding the roots of stereotypes and the risk they can pose to a people is a start. Identifying and challenging is the next step:

‘First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me’[10]


[1] https://www.jweekly.com/2013/04/12/jews-and-money-the-stereotype-the-history-the-reality-jccsf-series-explores/

[2] https://www.jewishcharityguide.co.uk/alphabetical-charity-list/

[3] https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/.premium-in-n-y-jewish-poverty-doubles-in-20-years-1.5275240

[4] https://www.thejc.com/lifestyle/family/i-m-poor-and-jewish-should-i-feel-ashamed-1.478383

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2011/feb/07/chinese-children-school-do-well

[6] https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/AboutUs/CivilSociety/ReportHC/75_The%20Louis%20D.%20Brandeis%20Center%20_Fact%20Sheet%20Anti-Semitism.pdf

[7] https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/AboutUs/CivilSociety/ReportHC/75_The%20Louis%20D.%20Brandeis%20Center%20_Fact%20Sheet%20Anti-Semitism.pdf

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Martin Neimoller, First They Came…

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It’s no laughing matter – time to challenge conspiracy

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MAAS will be building a library of useful aids to challenge anti-Semitism. We will take manifestations of anti-Semitism and provide useful means to help you challenge them. First in this series we are looking at collective blame and conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11. 9/11 has seen hateful narratives created against both Muslims and Jews and in seeing how both of theses narratives have been created, their basis and why they are both false and dangerous we hope that you will have useful information to challenge these perceptions yourself.

Twin towers: The Jews did it! The Muslims did it!

 

Conspiracy theories might seem crazy, sometimes amusing but definitely not worth our time or attention. Wrong. Conspiratorial blaming around the twin towers provides a strong example as to why we must pay heed to conspiracy theories and dedicate time to challenging them.

On September 11th 2001 the Islamist extremist group, al-Qaeda, used four passenger airliners as weapons to attack the United States killing 2,996 people and injuring 6,000 others, causing Wall Street to close, resulting in a global economic downturn and closing civilian airspace in the US and Canada for two days. Despite the catastrophic effects this terror attack had on civilians and the economy, some adopt a belief that all Muslims were tacitly involved, or that it was not an Islamist extremist terror attack at all but an attack by the Jews.

Let us take first the notion that all Muslims are to blame for 9/11:

The thinking is this: 9/11 was perpetrated by Muslims therefore all Muslims are a threat. This kind of thinking saw hate crime against Muslims rise from 28 reported incidents to 481 in 2001 following 9/11.[1] It is the type of thinking that results in consistent spikes in anti-Muslim hate following Islamist inspired attacks. It relies on the belief that all Muslims are ideologically aligned and violently inclined. It is in fact a very easy fallacy to contest; firstly Muslims believe in a number of different interpretations of Islam belonging to a number of branches and can never ideologically be treated as a whole.

A useful parallel to draw here is with the Westboro Baptist Church: this widely reviled Christian sect spreads hate speech and is considered a hate group by nearly everyone, yet no-one would consider this group to be representative of Christian belief and practice as a whole.

Secondly even of those who adopt an extreme literalist interpretation of Islam are unlikely to believe in violent Jihad as a means to achieve religious/ political goals. For example, Saudi Arabians whose dominant faith is Salafi/ Wahabism, which insists on a literalist interpretation of the Qu’uran, and has been accused of laying fertile ground for terrorism, mainly emphasize dawa and reform as a way for spreading their ideology rather than violence.[2]

A useful parallel here is violent attacks perpetrated by the far right: even the most right leaning people in this country abhor far right violence like the killing of MP Jo Cox, yet they continue to disagree with her politics and may be accused of laying fertile ground for future violence. To conclude here there are a plethora of beliefs within Islam and even the distinct minority who adopt a literalist view are very unlikely to agree with violent measures. Therefore, despite the attackers of 9/11 being Muslim it does not follow that all Muslims should be considered a threat.

Now let us turn to the conspiracy theory that Jews were behind 9/11:

Hezbollah’s television station Al-Manar ‘reported’ that 4,000 Israelis employed at the World Trade Centre did not show up for work that day because they were told in advance of the attacks. This then became central to the conspiracy that it was Israel and the Jews, not Al-Qaeda, that perpetrated 9/11. [3] In fact it is estimated that 400 Jews died in the attack.[4]

Unfortunately, a conspiracy theory like this is not surprising: there is a concerning popular point of view that Jews control world affairs. A recent CNN survey showed that 28% of Europeans believe that Jews have too much power over business and finance.[5]

Again, we see a diverse and complex group treated as a whole. This is complicated further by conflating being Jewish with actions of the state of Israel. Jews hold a variety of different political and ideological views, and not all Jews believe in the Zionist ideology (the belief in a right to a Jewish homeland) and then many Zionists do not agree with Israeli state action.  So to treat all Jews as a whole and to consider all Jews to be supporters of and actively involved in Israeli state action is again a fallacy.

Both theories have elements of collective blame. Collective blame is the punishing of the whole for the actions of a few.  In these examples Muslims are collectively blamed for terrorist attacks and Jews are collectively blamed for disasters according to an association with Jews and power, wealth and global control.

The problem with collective blame, according to neuroscientist Emile Bruneau co-author of Interventions highlighting hypocrisy reduce collective blame of Muslims for individual acts of violence and assuage anti-Muslim hostility[6] is that “If you collectively blame an entire group for the actions of individuals, it makes it totally reasonable to exact your revenge from any person from that group… You get a cycle going on where each cycle is motivated to commit violence against totally innocent members of the other group.”[7]  The obvious example here is the Holocaust. The Jews were blamed for the economic problems Germany faced and were painted as a threat to national security and prosperity. As the nationalist propaganda began to take root, the majority of German citizens accepted, encouraged and even participated in the mistreatment of Jews under Nazi rule. To give an even more direct example, Kristallnacht, when 267 synagogues were destroyed and an estimated 90 Jews murdered by the SA and civilians, was seemingly in response to the assassination of the Nazi German diplomat by a German- born Polish Jew, but can be seen as a direct result of shifting blame collectively, where one Jewish person’s actions were used to instigate aggression of the whole community.

As this article has shown, conspiracy theories and collective blame should not be treated as a joke. In the fight against the rise in both Anti-Muslim hate and anti-Semitism conspiratorial thinking, sweeping generalisation and collective blame must be consistently challenged. An easy way to do this is to get accustomed to the common conspiracy theories, do some research on the facts and keep them ready for potential discussions that head in this dark direction. Pointing out hypocrisy and ‘fake news’ are the best way to challenge the theories. As well as pointing out how dangerous conspiracy theories and connected collective blame can be.

It may also be useful to consider why conspiracy theories are formed at all. Conspiracy theories are often created to either shift blame from a certain group or pin blame on another group. It is no surprise then that Jewish conspiracies surrounding 9/11 are widely held across the Middle East. Another reason may be to make sense of reality when it goes against set beliefs, for example: those who do not believe that we had the technology to go the moon, may adopt conspiracy theories advocating that the moon landing was faked. They can also empower the conspiracy theorists with a sense of superiority as they might feel they know something others don’t, and that they have unmasked something that those in power do not want them to know.

As David Baddiel put: ‘Conspiracy theories are a way for idiots to feel like intellectuals.’

[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/conspiracy_files/6341851.stm

[2] https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-110shrg40579/html/CHRG-110shrg40579.htm

[3] https://web.archive.org/web/20110604144105/http://www.adl.org/ADL_Opinions/Anti_Semitism_Arab/911_Conspiracies.htm

[4] https://web.archive.org/web/20021010020906/http://www.thejewishweek.com/bottom/specialcontent.php3?artid=362

[5] http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2018/11/europe/antisemitism-poll-2018-intl/

[6] http://pcnlab.asc.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/CB_R1_accepted_10-10-17.pdf

[7] https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/11/30/16645024/collective-blame-psychology-muslim

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